What it means to listen

The United States is a nation in disagreement. (Conflict seemed to strong of a word.)

Yet the best part and ultimately the greatest right we have as Americans is the freedom of speech, religion, press, peaceful protests, and petitioning the government. We are able to speak out verbally and in print against our elected officials and laws of the land, protest for the rights we want upheld, and request the government make changes.

In other countries and in history, men, women, and children have not had these rights. Their outspoken and controversial ideas have been met with jail or even death.

We are the lucky ones.

Yes, we see an extreme when protests take a violent tone and businesses and properties are damaged but that’s all the more reason we need to learn how to listen.

We ask you today to take the time to listen to someone whose opinion is different from your own. It probably won’t change your stance but maybe it will give you perspective. Maybe you’ll learn something.

The way to listen is not complex but it is often rare to be taught these skills so here are some guidelines we suggest:

  1. Listen and silent are comprised of the same letters. Why? The role of the listener is to catch the words, tone, and feeling expressed by the speaker. They may seem angry but it’s your job to listen to the passion they feel in discussing an issue. Don’t evaluate and critique; listen. It is also vital that you remain silent and hear their entire argument.
  2. What they say may be in contrast to what you believe but at that moment, you’re not in debate. Your only job is to hear why they believe as they do.
  3. Be in the moment. Nod. Meet their eyes. Show an interest. You might find that some portion of their beliefs align with yours.
  4. Don’t expect a chance to react. Not everyone understands the importance or has developed the skills of listening so this might be a personal lesson only. There may never be an opportunity for you to speak and that’s okay.
  5. Reflect on what was said at a later time. When all is said and done, true listening means you digest someone’s view. Again, this does not mean that you agree but give some time to contemplate what they said. Could you understand where they have some valid insight? Is there something you can change in your explanation of your beliefs to reach them? Did they offer a new perspective that you were unaware of?There may not be answers to these questions but reflection is important.

We hope you learn from listening. Understanding another person’s perspective or how their life story reflects or impacts their beliefs will make you a better person…and you maybe you’ll find you agree with them.


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